By Ali G. Macabalang
Officials and residents of Pandag, Maguindanao celebrated their municipality’s 13th foundation anniversary day on Jan. 12 in various events designed as sort of thanksgiving for survival from different challenges capped by lack of internal revenue share for over a decade.
Held mostly at the town’s covered court, the commemorative events were led by three-term Mayor Zihan Mamalinta-Mangudadatu and her husband, incumbent Bangsamoro Parliament Member Khadafeh “Toy” Mangudadatu, author of the municipal charter.
Pandag was created on Jan. 12, 2007 under Muslim Mindanao Act 204 enacted by the fifth Regional Legislative Assembly of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The husband-author had served the RLA for three-terms before President Duterte appointed him as member of the 80-seat interim parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which replaced the almost three decade- old ARMM.
BARMM Wali (judicial figure head) Ustaz Khalipa Nando joined thousands of celebrants, gracing a Qur’an reading contest won by Esmail Guiabil and Aisah Balon for male and female championship rounds, respectively, according to Melvyn Avanceña Aradanas, MP Mangudadatu’s executive assistant.
Representatives from law enforcement and military establishments joined residents and the Mangudadatu couple in a blood-letting event that formed part of the celebration, said Aradanas, who posted some photos of the occasion.
Soldiers from the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion conducted free haircuts for male residents, while medical team workers staged “libreng tuli” for boys, he added.
In a speech, MP Mangudadatu narrated Pandag town’s challenging growth from varied challenges, which peaked at the absence of regular Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the government due to legal interpretation dispute over national and regional standards in creating towns.
“Pandag indeed has gone a tough and long way, yet despite all the challenges, including running on meager locally-sourced funds for twelve years before being recognized as a regular municipality last year and entitle it for its share (in IRA), it has hurdled it all,” MP Mangudadatu said, describing the setbacks as “obelisks.”
The defunct ARMM government under separate legislations in 2007 created at least eight towns in Maguindanao to include Pandag. But the national government the eight towns failed to meet standards on population and income that would entitle them to regular IRA.
Invoking regional autonomy, the BARMM government led by Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim ended the dispute in 2019 and entitled the eight town to the regular IRA.
BARMM’s Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo signed memos of agreement with the mayors of Pandag and four towns in Lanao del Sur – Butig, Poona-Bayabao, Lumbac-a-Unayan and Sultan Dumalonding – last month for the immediate construction of their municipal halls costing P25-million each.
Regional Executive Secretary Abdulraof “Sammy Gambar” Macacua graced the signing ceremony and urged the five mayors to value their town halls as “official symbol of governance.” AGM